The Impact of Meditation and Mindfulness Practice: Perspectives across Religious Traditions




Shelly, Alice

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Meditation and mindfulness practices have a longstanding history of use, both across religions and among non-religious individuals. Over the past two decades, substantial peer-reviewed research has been published on the benefits of such practices for health and general well-being. This thesis documents the history of the modern mindfulness movement and its impact on the lives of a sample of people of various religious identities. First, this thesis describes the emergence of mindfulness as a popular topic in the academic world, including a summary of the current research consensus on the benefits of meditation. The diversity of practices across selected religious traditions is also noted, exemplified by discussions of meditation in Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism, as well as in non-religious mindfulness practice. Second, the experiences and benefits of meditation are documented through a series of interviews with six individuals, from diverse faith traditions, with decades-long mindfulness practices. These folks describe their experiences from the perspective of their personal religious backgrounds. Third, a discussion is provided of the common features within the respective narratives of the interviewees, comparing and contrasting how different people experience mindfulness and how it benefits their lives. Also discussed are ways that meditation may be relevant and beneficial to people seeking to develop or deepen a mindfulness practice or to understand a subject that is deeply ingrained in human spirituality.